New Research Shows 40% of Individuals Choose to Remain Ignorant of the Consequences of Their Decisions

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Amsterdam has found that 40% of individuals opt to remain ignorant about how their decisions impact others, often using this unawareness to act more selfishly. This behavior, referred to as “willful ignorance,” is akin to consumers who turn a blind eye to the problematic origins of the products they purchase.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 22 research studies involving 6,531 participants. In these studies, some participants were informed of the consequences of their actions, while others had the choice to learn or remain ignorant. The researchers discovered that when given the option, 40% of individuals chose not to learn the consequences of their actions.

Furthermore, the study revealed that willful ignorance was linked to a decrease in altruistic behavior. Participants who were made aware of the consequences of their actions were 15.6 percentage points more likely to act generously compared to those who chose to remain ignorant.

The researchers hypothesized that one reason for willful ignorance might be the desire to maintain a positive self-perception as an altruistic person. The study found that participants who chose to learn the consequences of their actions were 7 percentage points more likely to act generously, suggesting that genuine altruistic individuals are more inclined to educate themselves about the consequences of their decisions.

This research sheds light on the prevalence and harmful effects of willful ignorance. It suggests that many acts of perceived altruism may be driven more by societal pressures and self-image rather than a genuine concern for others’ well-being. Understanding the motives behind willful ignorance can help develop strategies to combat this behavior and promote more informed decision-making.


  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • University of Amsterdam